Wednesday, September 08, 2010

English Principles

The old joke goes: Those that can, do. Those that can't, teach. It is quite unfair as a blanket statement but of course there is an element of truth to it, and moreso in ESOL teaching: Those that can't, teach English in Asia! (It is your birthright! Shitloads of money!) Many of those over here are a form of economic refugee; their original profession was hit by the recession and so moved to a place where they could economically "winter". But they aren't necessarily teacher material either by temperament or ability. Thus a new truism forms: Those that teach, do; those that can't, entertain; those that can't entertain, draw complaints; those that draw complaints, leave at the end of their one-year contracts; and if they happen to be male and single, prey you may on the nubile female "student body".
My school chain, one that is seen as a premium product, treats all staff like dedicated teachers. This is, of course, is a good policy. If you treat someone as a professional, they'll tend to lift to that level. But all schools face the uncomfortable end of the labour supply sword, and it is even worse when you try to be a premium product. The more you screen out undesirables or the unqualified, the fewer your teachers, the smaller your capacity to offer your service, and the smaller your profit. In this market, you can't be too picky.
I've had two colleagues go recently. Both were not necessarily teachers of nature or ability: both entertained, both were irked by the willingness of management to extend "ideas" upon what in many schools is a simple job. These ideas, some good, some suspect, were often the whims of new managers or a product of an ideology. So our school, stretched as we are, lost both entertainers. The former was expected to leave (he wanted to study and he was at the end of his contract) but the latter was a new recruit who had a fluttery mind - he saw another job with more money and spread his wings. We're still contemplating whether he is a loss to the school. In the last month of his short stay he was already dating one student (some of it during the time he was living with his previous girlfriend) and by the end of his contract had moved onto another.
All this is the background to my extended stay in my first centre. I can't leave until I have a replacement and they've been very picky when recruiting local teachers, and they accept any international teacher who fulfils formal criteria, but who are increasingly difficult to lure over.